In 1992, Stone Temple Pilots exploded onto the music scene. When their debut album, Core, landed at #3 on Billboard, they skyrocketed into the spotlight, clenching their first Grammy in 1993. The next year, the band found themselves reaching yet another major milestone with the release of Purple, and by the mid-nineties, America was in love with the grunge music gods.
Twenty-five years after Purple’s release, Stone Temple Pilots continue to share their music with the masses. Current members Dean Deleo (guitar), Robert Deleo (bass, backing vocals), Eric Kretz (drums), and Jeff Gutt (vocals), have spent this summer on and off the road, touring internationally for their 2018 album, Stone Temple Pilots. This time, the album doesn’t just come with 12 new tunes. It also happens to be the first with new vocalist Jeff—and plenty of fans have commented on the proverbial shoes he has to fill.
Luckily, the band had some time off between their next round of gigs. Robert Deleo was kind enough to spend a few minutes with me, discussing his sick bass skills, songwriting, and the return to his home state: the beautiful New Jersey.
You guys are getting set for tour right now. How’s the prep coming along?
Great! We talked about set lists and gear and all that stuff, getting ourselves in shape. It’s back to work for all of us.
You guys had a short break. You spent the first part of the summer on tour in Europe. How’d that go?
Well, I got very, very ill on that tour. I had a bronchial infection and it went straight into laryngitis. I played through a lot of it. But we were there during their heat wave and it was hell—it was hot as hell. That was a tough one to get through. I don’t think the European venues were ready for that kind of heatwave. I think it was about 120 degrees on stage with all the people and lights and being sick on top of that, it was a tough tour. So, I think the people who came out to the show—I’d like to thank them because they were right in there with us. I think they were experiencing the same kind of heat as we were, and I want to thank everyone for coming out. There were a few shows where I was unable to do backup vocals and I felt like I wasn’t doing my job. But we pushed through and it was a great experience overall. I really want to thank everyone for coming out.
How did you manage touring while being so sick?
Well, it was just a matter of getting better. I’m actually still feeling it right now. But let’s put it this way: it’s the first time I’ve ever been to the doctor and had a long camera shoved down my nose. But yeah…. It was just dealing with that and trying to get in the best shape as possible for this tour coming up. And that’s what we usually do—try to take care of ourselves.
Stone Temple Pilots have been going for a while now—how would you say touring has changed over the years with this new technology? Or has it?
I don’t really think it has very much. Playing live, you’re giving people music sonically and showing them what you’re about. I feel that will never change. I think playing live is one of the purest ways that people can experience music. Even with the visuals and the way we’re viewing shows, even though that’s changed from, for example, the nineteen-fifties, I think that once you get out there and give those people all of that energy, there’s this feeling that I don’t think can ever change or ever go away.
For sure. You’re there, living in the moment, celebrating music.
Yeah. It’s a really good snapshot in time, live shows. Like you said—you’re in the moment.
You grew up in New Jersey and have a couple of shows here. What’s it like to play shows in your home state?
It’s very comforting to be back and playing. That 16-year-old who was just learning bass, I would never have thought that it would come to this. So, returning back there is just so—I’m so honored and I get to see a lot of old friends who are really happy to be there…. I’m going back to friends who I’ve known since I was three-years-old. It’s special for me to go back there. It’s special to be there and play in the places where I started off playing shows or experiencing shows. I used to go to the Garden State Arts Center—the PNC now—and that’s where I saw my first concert. I saw the Carpenters there when I was five. So that was really special. To play those places—going back to the Stone Pony and being in New Jersey, it’s bringing me back to my roots.
And you’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of Purple. Can we expect a lot of those songs on the set list?
Oh yes. Yes, yes. It’s just a matter of feeling which one has the best vibe at the time, but yes. A lot of songs from the record.
You’re also co-headlining this tour with Rival Sons. You haven’t been out with them yet.
No, we haven’t. We’re very honored to have them out with us. They’re the real deal.
As for songwriting, I heard you used to start off with acoustic guitar, but you’re a bassist. Do you write on bass now? Little bit of both?
Well, there are a couple of songs that I’ve started on bass. But for the most part, it’s just sitting with a guitar and putting a couple chords together. It’s just how it happens. Maybe that’s what attracted me to music. There are no rules when it comes to writing music. It could be in the back of a tour bus, in someone’s basement, in a hotel room.
Okay—so where is your favorite place to create?
I don’t really have one. It can just happen anywhere. I can be anywhere with a guitar and I can just start writing. It’s usually where I can just sit down and feel the inspiration hit. It can be anywhere.
I heard that Motown inspired you to pick up the bass.
Well, I first heard Motown [music] probably when I was about three-years-old. Now, that was in, like, 1969 and I was listening to AM radio—what my older brothers and sisters were listening to. And those songs [coming] directly off the AM radio, I was listening to those first-hand. Motown was the milk in the musical bottle I was sucking from. Those songs were kind of like nursery rhymes. Those songs were universally written to appeal to so many people—and they did. So, how could you not enjoy it? That was a big trigger for me at three-years-old, and I was actually musically comprehending it when I was three. It always stuck with me. I look at Motown as the biggest genre that really hit me when I was young. It was full of inspiration. And my favorite bass player, a gentleman by the name of James Jamerson, he played on all that stuff. He was probably one of the most intelligent bass players of our time.
So he was the musician who started it all for you, huh?
He was! I didn’t know I was gonna play bass at three-years-old, but I knew what I was hearing. And I liked it.
Well, you didn’t start with bass. Can you explain the transition from guitar to bass?
Yeah. It’s usually when you need a bassist. I don’t think anybody really says, ‘Hey, I’m gonna start playing bass guitar.’ It’s usually when you’re a guitar player and someone in the band says, ‘We need a bass player’ and they hand you a bass. Now, I’m six-foot-two. So, bass is more comfortable. Bigger instrument, bigger strings. It just felt more comfortable when I picked it up. It felt right. And I started playing when I was about 16 and I found a way to learn how to play through Rush, Yes, the Who… They were the best from the rock standpoint. So, I picked it up from listening and learning to play their music. And I learned it within two weeks.
Two weeks is a pretty short time to learn an instrument.
It is. It’s pretty impressive, playing those songs. And I was just learning. And it had to be fast. I feel really fortunate to have grown up with that music.
Sure, you grow from listening.
Yeah. You know, I’ve been a fan of music for so long. I think being a fan of music helps you learn [how to play] because you listen. There are so many different [genres] of music out there to listen to. And I think that being the youngest in my family helped me, too, because there was such a wide range of music [to listen to]. And I appreciate it all.
In the spring of 2018, STP released their second self-titled album. This was the first record with Jeff singing—he’s been with you guys for a couple of years now. Do you think he’s influenced the band or the band’s sound?
Yes! Definitely. Jeff, like Scott, comes from a different musical place. I think what that does, is it makes things a little more interesting and adds more elements to what Dean, Eric, and I do. I think that’s a pretty important influence for any kind of music you do. Like I said, adding new elements kind of makes the music twist and turn and I think it’s interesting. Jeff has definitely had a great influence and brought inspiration to what we’re doing. And it’s a matter of being comfortable with each other. I think we’re all still getting comfortable with each other and learning that flow.
Don’t miss Stone Temple Pilots on Sept. 15 at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, on Sept. 19 at The Met in Philadelphia, and on Sept. 22 at the Ford Amphitheater in Coney Island, Brooklyn. For more info, please visit stonetemplepilots.com.